August 29, 2013
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), directed by Otto Preminger, reunited Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney from his successful Laura (1944) film. It’s a story about a about a good cop who is just too tough for his own good. There is an accidental killing, cover-up, and love in this film that has stood the test of time which I had watched not too long ago and I feel it held up pretty well considering 60+ years have passed. Whether or not it is film noir, which has been discussed previously, is up to you the viewer. We’re here to discuss the soundtrack and it is certainly a unique one.
Alfred Newman wrote his very first score for a picture called Street Scene (1931) and the melody was one of those unforgettable ones that Fox took full advantage of. It has been played as part of symphonic pops concerts, was featured in the film How to Marry a Millionaire, and was a source of source material for other films. Played by a symphony orchestra it is a Gershwin type melody portraying a bustling busy city scene with raucous harmony from the brass. It’s a swaggering melody that once you hear you’re not likely to forget and is the main part of this soundtrack. Cyril Mockridge took this theme, added some underscore and produced a fine score for the film.
The soundtrack begins with a solo whistler followed by the prelude to “Street Scene,” the introduction to the film. The second track begins with a dance band version of “Street Scene.” “Dixon Stiffens” is tension underscore but if you listen carefully you’ll hear a reference to that hard to get rid of “Street Scene” The same can be said of the following track “Dixon Starts to Walk.” “Dixon Starts to Drive On” makes use of the tension with fanfare notes from the trumpets hinting “Street Scene” with tremolo strings in the background making for excellent underscore. “Martha Exits” is a danceable sweet band version of what else; “Street Scene” again featuring the sax, muted trumpets, and smooth sounding trombones with” a little piano for a garnish. It ends up with a riff from the clarinet and the piano. Great track! “Your Dad Never Killed Him/ He Won’t be Tried” is very sad almost dirge like using variations of the “Street Scene” until it segues into a romantic version of you can never get enough of you know what. “Dixon Hangs Up Phone” mixes danger chords with tension, noticeable timpani rolls and a love version of the song fills the air to almost end the score. The final track is another original from Alfred Newman called “Cry Baby” and adheres to the standard dance band arrangement of a hummable tune (2:13 fits on a single side of a 78RPM) and each section leader is given an opportunity to get in a few licks.
On first listen to this one I had pretty much discounted it as an extended version of “Street Scene” but upon closer examination the orchestration and arrangement that Mockridge came up with are really a joy to listen to. I found myself comparing it to what Raksin did with Laura and was truly impressed.
1. Street Scene-Whistling and Fanfare (0:41)
2. Slums/Dixon Picks Up the Phone (1:28)
3. Dixon Stiffens (1:07)
4. Dixon Starts to Walk (1:39)
5. Dixon Starts to Drive On (1:15)
6. Morgan’s Father Closes Door/You Look Beat, Mark (1:28)
7. Martha Exits (2:19)
8. Your Dad Never Killed Him/He Won’t Be Tried (3:49)
9. Dixon Hangs Up Phone (4:43)
10. Finale (0:27)
11. Cry Baby (2:13)
August 27, 2013
Sometimes you can’t tell a book from its cover and this is certainly the case with this new release Killer Crocodile from Kronos records. Riz Ortolani, composer of over 200 films and best known for his Oscar nominated Mondo Cane (1962), composes some downright creepy tracks. Killer Crocodile (1989) has a cast that features Van Johnson and Anthony Crenna (son of Richard Crenna) and tells the story of toxic waste gone awry in our environment creating the monster beast. I won’t go into the story as we’re interested in the soundtrack. A word of urgency!!! This is a limited edition of only 500 units and with sales going well act soon or you’ll miss out. I’ll be identifying by track number only as descriptions were not provided as well as press release note information.
The opening track is long lower register string notes that set an ominous scene, simple but effective. The second track begins as the first one did but part way through a variation of the Dies Irae theme is introduced in a pounding pulsating fashion with staccato chords and growling from the orchestra before it returns to the opening chords of the first track. Without having seen the film I’m assuming that this is some sort of a motif for the crocodile. The third track is slow tempo and dirge like with minor chords from the lower register giving way to depressing upper register strings and becoming harmony in the background. This orchestration is repeated in other tracks and gives this feeling of impending doom. Track six is a jazz one upbeat featuring synthesizer with steady beat. Midway through a muted trumpet is featured reminding me of something Miles Davis could have played. Track 8 is similar to six except the tempo leans more to a soft rock theme. Track 9 and 10 are a return to track 3 with the Dies Irae variation in the background played against strings offering a melody against harmony from the lower string sections. Track 10 offers some urgency from the strings before it returns to the theme. Track 11 is acoustic guitar offering a simple melody with nice harmony, a complete 180 from the other music that has been heard so far. Tracks 15 and 16 are from the romantic side of Ortolani giving that feeling of amour. Both are the same theme but there are variations of the melody. There is a nice flute as well as bassoon solo.
This release got my attention because of the title Killer Crocodiles composed by Ortolani. Repeated listens and some track shuffling made for an interesting listen. Look for more Ortolani releases in the future. This release is available through your usual outlets.
August 24, 2013
The tragic story of Marcel Tyberg (1893-1944) was related to JoAnn Falletta, conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic, by Dr. Milan Mihich who had been trusted with the manuscripts which encouraged her to pursue to record his music. Tyberg unfortunately was part of the cleansing of Jews in Germany and he perished in 1943. This recording is made possible through the support of the Marcel Tyberg Musical Legacy Fund and Falletta, champion of many unrecorded composers. This is the second CD in the series and hopefully there will be more in the future. If you’re interested I’ve reviewed their first release of his third symphony https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/symphony-no-3-in-d-minortyberg/ which I found to be a very satisfying listen.
Written in 1927 the second symphony follows the tradition of the 19th century composers Mendelssohn, Bruckner and a fine fugue reminding you of Johann Sebastian Bach. The first movement Allegro appassionato begins with a Bruckner like theme from the strings in the lower register. The melody is turned over to the heroic fanfare from the French horns and the woodwinds. This is a theme that could very easily be a tone poem as it is filled with mystery and intrigue as well as being a structured movement. Tyberg introduces a second theme with dramatic phrases. Tyberg returns to his first melody allowing full development where we again hear the majestic horns. It concludes with a rousing crescendo restating the melody again. The second movement, an adagio, is one of peace and tranquility, a pastoral scene of a shepherd herding his flock, although we hear a brief restatement of the theme from the first movement. The third movement, a scherzo taken from a page out of Mendelssohn, is a bright uplifting one filled with dances, harmony, and fugue like counterpoint. There are three themes that are developed in the movement. The fourth movement begins with a slow almost plodding theme that is introduced by the bass and then turned over to the winds and horns. It is a wonderful fugue not to be missed.
This is a work not to be missed! The Buffalo Philharmonic is in top form and enhances what is being offered. There playing is precise and crisp and well recorded by Tim Handley in a fine sounding music hall that I’m confident will produce many more fine recordings in the future.
The second selection on this CD is Tyberg’s Piano Sonata No. 2 which is rich in the 19th century tradition. This is not necessarily an easy listen as there is a lot going on especially in the allegro, the first movement. The adagio makes Fabio Bidini demonstrate that he is a first class pianist. The scherzo is also busy with some of the material being firmly attacked while other parts are quite delicate in nature. The finale is truly a romantic track that reminds me of something that Rachmaninoff could have conceived. It is well recorded with the sound of the Steinway coming through loud and clear.
As a reviewer I consider Falletta to be the Howard Hanson of the 21st century introducing us to new composers who have much to offer the listener. Recommended.
Symphony No. 2 in F minor (1927)
1. Allegro appassionato (9:37)
2. Adagio:Langsam-Andante con moto (10:38)
3. Scherzo: Allegro vivace con spirit (9:17)
4. Preludium-Allegro assai (12:32)
Piano Sonata No. 2 in F sharp minor (1934)
5. Allegro con fuoco (8:38)
6. Adagio, non troppo ma sempre maestoso (12:34)
7. Scherzo: Allegro vivace sempre assai energico (6:27)
8. Finale: Sostenuto e maestoso-Allegro non troppo ma sempre
Con passione (5:04)
Total Time 74:47
August 22, 2013
In all of the years that I’ve been watching movies which has now reached well over fifty years I’ve yet to come up with a definition for film noir that establishes a concrete set of attributes that one can categorize them as being such a film. What has happened to me as a critic is I’ve established my own list of things that a film noir film must have which can be entirely different from what you think. As a result it is something that if for example you feel that Where the Sidewalk Ends, Laura, Daisy Kenyon, and Whirlpool is noir then it is. I don’t think they are and would consider them to be more of in the melodrama category On the other hand; Fallen Angel does fit the requirements. The key ingredients for me seem to be the low key lighting (German expressionist) along with the femme fatale that double crosses and provides the sexual motivations for the film.
Kritzerland (20026-2) presents the above mentioned five films in a two CD package featuring music from David Raksin, Alfred Newman, and Cyril Mockridge. Thanks to Bruce Kimmel several of Raksin’s soundtracks have been made available for the first time. While Raksin was not considered to be one of the ‘A’ composers his contribution to Hollywood films was priceless.
Raksin fresh from his major success Laura approached the score to Fallen Angel (1945) with two strong melodies that easily make this a real gem. Starring Dana Andrews, Charles Bickford, Linda Darnell, and Alice Faye is a tale of a drifter who marries for money but is attracted to another waitress creating the triangle. When his wife mysteriously disappears he investigates to find the killer, making all the ingredients for a nifty noir film. Alice Faye was married to the comic Phil Harris and was mostly known as a song and dance girl. This dramatic role showed her versatility. “Cross Country Blues,” the main title, is introduced as a hurried Gershwin like orchestration depicting a frantic pace giving off a feeling of motion. This is a theme that is also used in “Eric” in a tragic way, “Andrews Blues” in an arrangement that you might hear in a bar. There are selected piano bars along with muted trumpet and tenor sax being featured. “Fallen Angel” is a tragic version of the main title while “Eric, Stella, and June” nicely combines the main title with the love theme “Slowly,” which is featured on 4 selections. It is sung by Alice Faye and Dick Haymes, the ultimate crooner as well as 2 instrumentals both using the trombone in place of the lyrics. The first one, track 6 is exactly the same time as the first vocal. It is a direct substitution by the mellow trombone for the lyrics. There are two underscore tracks “Séance” a silent movie like sound and “June,” a fugue like offering from the organ. “Fallen Angel” is a tragic version of the main title.
While this soundtrack doesn’t have that hard bite and gritty sound of a Rozsa score for the period the material a little on the schmaltzy at times is quite effective for the film. This is just one of 5 films offered in the 1000 limited edition release. The offering is a nice clean mono recording with the exception of a slight volume increase at the 35 second point on the first track. I only noticed it because I had it on too loud to begin with and the volume increase became neighbor disturbing. Golden Age material is not for everyone but if you enjoy the 40’s music you’ll go for this one.
1… Cross Country Bus (1:25)
2… Eric (1:00)
3… Slowly (Alice Faye) (2:08)
4… Andrews Blues (2:40)
5… Séance (1:44)
6… Slowly (instrumental) (2:08)
7… June (1:05)
8… Slowly (instrumental #2) (1:53)
9… Eric, Stella, and June (3:05)
10. Fallen Angel (3:10)
11. Slowly (Dick Haymes) (3:53)
August 17, 2013
A Place in the Sun, based on the novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, a two volume bestselling book based on true events from a murder in 1906 starred Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, and Shelly Winters. Winner of six Oscars, including dramatic score to Franz Waxman, whose soundtrack competed against the likes of A Streetcar Named Desire (North), Death of a Salesman (North), Quo Vadis (Rozsa), and David and Bathsheba (Newman), was directed by George Stevens who had extra time to fine tune and edit the picture as Paramount delayed the release so as not to compete with Sunset Blvd a huge Oscar winner. Because of the busy schedule of Waxman coupled with the delay of the release Victor Young and Daniele Amfitheatrof were called in to redo several of the cues due to the editing of Stevens.
Before this limited edition of 1000 units from Kritzerland #KR 20026-1 the Charles Gerhardt/National Philharmonic Orchestra 8+ minute suite was the recording that many film score collectors had in their collections, a recording which I still recommend today. It featured the main themes along with an extended alto sax solo that putting it mildly was spectacular. It was also well recorded in RCA stereo. The new release presents all of the surviving material along with bonus tracks which include film versions, source material, and a track “Out of Nowhere-Rhumba” written by Heyman and Green.
“Prelude and First Scene” is a classic example of the sound of the golden age of soundtracks. The prelude, conducted by Victor Young, nicely segues into the love theme and a variation of it as the film is introduced. The film version, a bonus track, is a minute longer and with the rolling timpani, brass fanfare, and swirling strings is far more dramatic and less romantic quite a contrast. This track was also reworked and conducted by Victor Young and one only has to listen to the ‘singing strings’ and instantly recognize him. “The First Mile” begins with a motif that gives a feeling of motion and segues into a section that could have been lifted from some of his Sunset Boulevard material. The strings for a brief interval also give the sound of Bride of Frankenstein. It then shifts gear once again offering another theme, a sad offering from horn and solo violin before it takes off in another direction with a swaggering few bars from the clarinet. It concludes with a waltz tempo of the love theme. “Love’s Meeting” is the first track that is devoted to the love theme, a lush romantic orchestration that pulls at the heart strings. “Dance and Angela” offers a two step dance version of the love theme as it builds up to a big band statement before going back to the romantic orchestration. “Evil Plans” begins with a swarming sound from the strings builds to a climax with a brass statement and then ends up with the alto sax performing the love theme. “Farewell and Frenzy” begins with tension music and a tragic bar before we return to the love theme featuring a trumpet in the background followed by the alto sax and staccato strings that also sounds like it was taken from Sunset Boulevard. “The Last Mile” (finale and original version) is the concluding cue to this tragic love story and features church bells, a fanfare from the trumpet and repeats the theme from the beginning of the first track in a concluding crescendo. The nine bonus tracks include additional film version, a generic sounding rhumba and other material.
No collection is complete unless you have this fine soundtrack from Waxman. Some will argue that this was his best effort although this reviewer considers Prince Valiant, Sunset Boulevard, and Rebecca ahead of it. In fact you should have all four them in your collection. The archival mono tracks were cleanly mastered without any glitches and are easy to listen to. Highly recommended!
1… Prelude and First Scene (1:49)
2… The First Mile (2:48)
3… Love’s Meeting (2:13)
4… Dance and Angela (3:05)
5… Evil Plans (3:20)
6… Loon Lake-Part 2 (1:59)
7… To the Lake (1:41)
8… Buildup to Murder (3:16)
9… The Drowning-Part 1 (3:06)
10. The Drowning-Part 2 (3:08)
11. Farewell and Frenzy (3:01)
12. Angela Collapses (1:11)
13. Witness Montage (1:36)
14. The Last Mile (1:48)
15. Prelude and First Scene (film version) (2:49)
16. Rhumba (original version) (1:59)
17. Dance and Angela (film version) (3:05)
18. Out of Nowhere-Rhumba (2:21)
19. Not Married (1:28)
20. Alice’s Radio (1:13)
21. Ophelia (2:11)
22. Farewell and Frenzy (film version) (2:06)
23. Finale (film version) (0:44)
August 13, 2013
Eugen d’Albert (1864-1932) born in Glasgow was taught to play the piano, played for Liszt enjoyed much fame as a concert pianist throughout Europe and America. Like Anton Rubinstein, who he played for at the age of 15, his forte seemed to be performing classical works although in later years he published many operas, a symphony, two piano concertos and it was he who was responsible for editing Liszt’s Symphonic Tone Poems. He became part of the Liszt group and was nicknamed ‘Albertus Magnus.’ His personal life was a bit in shambles as he married six times and was the subject of much criticism.
While the featured work on this Naxos release #8.572805 is his single attempt at writing a symphony my ear perked up a notch or two when I heard the Symphonic Prologue. Written in 1924 twenty years after the opera was first performed, the piece an after thought has turned out to be an outstanding tone poem and certainly one that should be included in the repertoire of orchestras. Alas this is not the case and d’Albert and his work are in the seldom performed category.
The opening theme, performed by solo clarinet, sets a mood of a pastoral setting with peace and tranquility. As the orchestra makes its entrance the mood shifts to one of oriental mysticism, not unlike something that Borodin or Rimsky-Korsakov would have written. As the work develops further the orchestration style shifts to a Debussy style one could hear in La Mer although d’Albert shifts the melody to many different instruments and all sections of the orchestra are allowed to participate. The actual scene is one of two shepherds calling to each other with shepherd pipes high in the mountains with stars still being visible and a there is a heavy mist in the air. The proud majestic horns in forte signal the conclusion to the work to this beautiful scene depicted with music.
This is a composition to be further explored and one could compare this to the works of other well known composers. It should, without reservation on the part of this writer, to be performed on a regular basis but I fear that this will never happen in my lifetime.
August 10, 2013
Sparks and shadows #SN54007
Europa is one of the many moons of Jupiter which is where this film takes place, shot as a semi documentary style and telling an incredible story of six astronauts sent to explore the possibility of single cell life found in its ocean. Starring Michael Nyqvist, who portrayed Mikael Blomkvist in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films, is an immediate bonus to any film and this video on demand picture has received mostly favorable reviews.
Bear McCreary has firmly established himself in Hollywood as an up and coming television composer and is now moving forward to doing films and it won’t be too much longer until he will be given the opportunity to do an ‘A’ picture. It has been released on his new CD label Sparks and Shadows and is available thru Amazon and other CD sellers. “Lift Off,” the opening track begins with a disturbing synth pulse that acts as percussion as well as a contrast to the music. Chords from the lower register of the orchestra set a depressing mood until the violins offer the Europa melody, quite tranquil and peaceful in nature. As the level of intensity increases so does the ever present synth beat and the track ends abruptly. The overall feeling that I got from this cue reminded me of the string work that David Julyan did in Insomnia. While the writing sounds minimalist it is in fact quite complex with lines being written for several string parts at the same time.”The View” continues the Europa melody with a solo violin playing the melody somewhat tragically eventually giving way to the strings without the pulsating synth. “Landing on Europa” is a return to the synth beat with an offering of fluttering strings with chords in the background from the Europa melody. It gives off a feeling of nervous tension and the cue builds to a climax with the entire string section. It concludes with a return to the Europa theme, a peaceful tranquil setting as a flute offers the melody at the end of the track. “Europa Report” for solo piano, my favorite track on the CD, is a classical rendition of the Europa theme with both hands playing a role in the solo.”Cosmically Astounding” is a contrast in styles offering a timpani over sad strings with an electronic haze sound in the background. Midway through we hear the return of the synth pulse and a feeling of dread before part of the Europa theme returns. The CD concludes with the synth pulse and the Europa theme being played in the background in a quicker tempo, another solo piano rendition of the theme and as the pulse and strings disappear it ends with the solo piano.
As with many recordings your first listen will not be an indication of how you’ll feel about the material. In the case of Europa Report I had to listen to it many times, one listen in particular where there were no distractions and I was fully able to concentrate on the material. As a result I feel that I have some insight on the ideas that McCreary was conveying. I urge you the listener to do the same.
1… Lift Off (3:12)
2… The View (2:49)
3… Landing On Europa (4:18)
4… Mausoleum (4:26)
5… The Drill (3:57)
6… Europa Report (For Solo Piano) (2:48)
7… Cosmically Astounding (5:11)
8… Water (2:47)
9… Under The Ice (5:03)
10. Hydrazine (5:26)
11. That Brings Us To Now (6:13)
12. Airlock (3:18)
13. A World Other Than Our Own (1:48)
14. Theme from Europa Report (5:31)